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Simon's Rock faculty present their multi-media work in Florence, Italy

GT BARRINGTON, MA - On March 14, Simon's Rock faculty members and other local artists presented their work in Florence, Italy.  Wendy Shifrin and John Myers, together with Christine Gevert, Artistic Director of Crescendo, and  Juliet Mattila, translator and writer for Crescendo, presented their collaborative work on a multi-arts performance of Hugo Distler's "Totentanz" (Dance of Death) in Florence, Italy.  The presentation took place at the 14th international conference of the Europäischen Totentanz-Vereinigung, held at the Max Planck Institute in Florence, where scholars from the arts and humanities explored the theme of mortality as expressed in the arts and literature, from medieval times to contemporary culture.
 
Conceived by conductor Christine Gevert, this performance was the first digital multimedia performance of the "Totentanz" by Hugo Distler, a brilliant young German composer who, after being persecuted by the Nazi regime, took his own life in 1942. The composition, written in 1935, was inspired by the famous "Totentanz" mural, a late Medieval/early Renaissance panoramic painting, which, like the composer, was also destroyed in 1942.   In conjunction with the Crescendo chorus performance, Wendy Shifrin choreographed and coordinated a performance with dancers, while John Myers and his partner Alice Myers, a visual artist, used digital technology to create full color animations based on their research, including black and white photographs that had been taken before the mural was destroyed.
 
The performances, which were given by Simon's Rock students, faculty and staff members, along with 50 singers, 12 narrators/actors, and other participants from Crescendo, an arts organization based in Connecticut, were held in Great Barrington and Lime Rock, Conn., on Nov. 9 and 10.  The production led to the invitation to the 
European conference.  For the Florence screening, Alice and John Myers had created a DVD, which combines live video of the November performance with Alice's images and full-screen animation.
 
Wendy Shifrin is a Simon’s Rock faculty member in the divisions of Dance and Women’s Studies. Her areas of interest include choreography, improvisation, dance aesthetics, and creative writing. She studied at the University of Michigan and New York University (BA and MA) and taught at the New School for Social Research in New York and the Nancy Meehan School of Dance in New York City.  She has studied with Nancy Meehan, Andre Bernard, Bonnie Cohen, Robert Dunn, Margie Beals, Erick Hawkins, and others. She recently studied at the Laban Institute in London, at the American Dance Festival at Duke University, and with Simone Forti and Sara Pearson in New York.
 
John Myers, musician and ethnomusicologist, and Alice Myers, visual artist, often collaborate on mixed media projects.  John Myers is Simon’s Rock faculty member in the fields of Music, Interactive Arts and Asian Studies. He graduated with his PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. In addition to performing jazz guitar regularly, Myers is involved in many digital multimedia productions. He has a background in jazz studies, interactive arts, Asian studies, ethnomusicology, and theory-composition. His audio CD, “Look In,” released on the Jungsoul label in 2004, features his original jazz compositions and performances on classical and electric guitars, clarinet, and electronic instruments. 
 
In 2003, working with Alice Myers and Swiss artist Etienne Delessert, he created a series of wide-screen digital animations for live performances by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They also created an interactive DVD computer-based installation for an exhibit at the Visual Arts Museum of the School for Visual Arts in New York, and a cross-platform CD-ROM “Tabla-A Journey into Eastern Percussion,” exploring rhythmic techniques and form in the classical music of North India.
 
The Totentanz was performed in Massachusetts and Connecticut before the team brought their presentation to Italy.